French farmer protests: Dozens arrested at Rungis food market in Paris

French farmer protests: Dozens arrested at Rungis food market in Paris
Police officers speak with demonstrators as tractors are parked in front of Rungis food marketGetty Images

Dozens of farmers who descended on a food market outside Paris have been arrested, as tensions over protests for better conditions escalated.

The French government had warned that disruption at Rungis, a food distribution hub which feeds 12 million people, would cross a red line.

About 91 farmers who converged the market are in custody, police said.

Farmers are aiming to stop food deliveries reaching supermarkets, in a call for better pay and less red tape.

Rungis, located on the southern edge of the capital, is known as “the belly of Paris”, providing much of the fresh fish, fruit, meat and vegetables the region consumes each day. It is the second largest market of its kind in the world.

In anticipation of their arrival, police units with armoured vehicles had been deployed along the A6 motorway to the market, and police checkpoints were set up around its access points.

The protesters entered the market’s storage area and caused damage before they were taken out by security forces, a source told AFP news agency.

Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said authorities “cannot tolerate disturbances to public order”, BFMTV reported.

Earlier, 18 people who were trying to blockade Rungis had been arrested for “interfering with traffic”, police said.

Prosecutors said 15 of them were then taken into custody.

It comes as convoys of farmers’ tractors have been blocking key roads into the French capital – dubbed the “siege of Paris” – over the past week.

France has been at the centre of a growing dispute across Europe, with tens of thousands of farmers across Germany, Poland, Romania, Belgium and Italy also staging demonstrations.

Arnaud Rousseau, head of FNSEA, France’s main agricultural union, said there are “huge expectations” among farmers, but that not all of their demands could be immediately met.

“I’m trying to call for calm and reasonableness,” he added.

The protests have created a crisis for French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who is only three weeks into the job

Mr Attal said on Tuesday that his government stood ready to resolve the crisis and praised the agriculture sector as “our force and our pride”.

He said Attal “new support measures” would be announced in the coming days.

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By David Ryckman